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National Physiotherapy Month: Christina's and Melinda's journeys

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A man lays on the floor,  using a physio band to stretch his hamstrings.
A hamstring stretch I picked up in physio ages ago, and continue to use!

May is Physiotherapy Month, and as the month winds down, we want to once again recognize the great work Northern Health (NH) physiotherapists do to help keep Northerners moving!

I grew up playing baseball and hockey, and I’ve had my fair share of sports-related injuries. I’ve also worked quite a few labour jobs and didn’t necessarily lift my legs all the time, which caused some lower back issues. In other words, physiotherapy has been a big part of my injury recoveries and my life for a long time!

Given that I owe so much to physiotherapists, I was honoured to get to speak with a couple NH rehabilitation staff members about why they love being in physio so much.

  • Xinming (Melinda) Lau is the chief physiotherapist at the Fort St. John Hospital and Peace Villa. She began her physio career with NH by covering a maternity leave in Dawson Creek. She came to BC from Toronto, seeking outdoor adventure and an escape from the grind of a big city.
  • Christina Conrad is a physiotherapist at the University Hospital of Northern BC (UHNBC) and grew up locally in Fort Nelson. She’s been with NH for four years, and joined the organization as a new graduate.

Their work may be similar, but they came to physiotherapy in very different ways.

“I participated in a lot of sports growing up, including competitive track and field,” says Melinda. “My track coach encouraged me to explore kinesiology and consider athletic therapy or physiotherapy when considering my undergraduate studies.”

A woman stands on a train track that disappears in the distant forest. A sunny sky beats down on her.
Melinda on walk outside Pouce Coupe.

While Melinda was inspired to enter physiotherapy because of her athletic prowess, overcoming limitations pushed Christina towards it.

“I had chronic knee pain growing up from a common childhood condition called Osgood-Schlatter disease,” says Christina. “When I moved to Prince George, I began working with a physiotherapist who taught me how to strengthen my leg in ways that minimized the pain. Within six months, I was back to riding a bike (something that I previously couldn’t do because of pain). I even completed a triathlon!” 

Access to care also played a big part in Christina’s choice.

“We didn’t have access to physiotherapy, so I limited my activity in order to change my life. I also spent many years in pain because I didn’t have access to the service. I became a physiotherapist and moved back to Northern BC so that I could help people who would otherwise not have access to physiotherapy.” 

Although their stories differ, Melinda and Christina agree that the most rewarding part of working in physiotherapy is helping patients achieve their goals.

“I always feel privileged to work with patients, guiding them through their rehab journey,” says Melinda. “I just really enjoy celebrating the milestones – big or small – and helping someone improve their quality of life.”

Based on my physio experiences in clinics, I tend to think of physiotherapy as a one-person show, but Christina notes that in a hospital setting, it’s a team approach.

“We don’t work alone! On any given day, I’ll work with therapy assistants, nurses, surgeons, radiologists, sports medicine doctors, occupational therapists and many others to help our clients reach their goals.”

Expanding my concept of physiotherapy even further, Melinda highlights that physiotherapy is more than just things like orthopaedics and sports medicine.

“There’s so many different areas of physiotherapy. [For instance], cardiorespiratory, neurosciences, oncology, women’s health and even animal rehab! Yup! There are physios that get to work with puppies!”

As if picturing ‘puppy physio’ isn’t enough of a gift, Melinda also told me what physiotherapy has taught her about life.

“Life has it hurdles – just like rehab, it can be hard and frustrating, but it’s always rewarding if you give it your all and don’t give up.”

Thanks for sharing your stories, Christina and Melinda, and for helping Northerners! Happy National Physiotherapy Month!

Are you interested in a career at NH, in physio or another health care profession? Visit our Careers page for more information.